Blocked crossings pose a significant challenge for many railtowns nationwide, occurring unexpectedly and sometimes lasting for multiple days.
At the very least, these blockages cause substantial delays, forcing both pedestrian and vehicular traffic to seek alternative routes. More severe scenarios see communities entirely cut off from each other, hindering school commutes, work travel, and the delivery of crucial emergency services.
A common struggle for many cities is the lack of clear information regarding the duration of a blockage once it's identified. Railroads typically aren't required to provide accurate timelines or move the trains to facilitate access, even in emergencies.
While resolving this issue is exceptionally important, there's a related one needing attention, too. Although trackside signage has significantly improved over the years, in instances where it's either missing, unreadable, or the caller isn't at the crossing, determining the right contact becomes a challenge.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) provides a "Railroad Contacts for Grade Crossing Inventory" document on its website to assist individuals in reaching out to the relevant railroad personnel concerning various issues.
However, there's a snag. The document, last updated in 2016, hasn't seen any changes since 2011, and being a static PDF, it lacks live links to emails, phone numbers, or websites. The probability that the contact person retains the same position and contact information after all these years is, realistically, quite low.
On a positive note, the FRA offers alternative solutions, including an app available on both Apple and Google app stores, which helps users find a contact number based on signage or geolocation. Yet, the link to this app is provided after the link to the outdated document.
Ideally, we'd prefer enhanced oversight and authority for the FRA to ensure railroad operations don’t adversely impact host communities. But improving access to accurate and current information, especially regarding emergency response, is already within the FRA's authority and would be a step in the right direction.
We welcome anyone with access to more recent data outside of the app to share this information with us. In the meantime, we plan to contact the FRA to inquire if updated contact information is available somewhere else. Note: If you read this post and a link isn't working - please let us know! It likely means the FRA has fixed the issue or is working on it.